Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lemon Grass Herb-of-the-week

I am choosing another Lemon Herb for this week's Herb-of-the-Week post.  I love lemon herbs and this herb has many great uses both in cooking and tea so even if your zone isn’t perfect for it, you can grow the plant in a raised bed or pot.  Hopefully you will try and enjoy this herb many consider to be only good for Asian foods.

This week's herb is:  Lemon Grass


Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citatus) did not come to the attention of the west as a medicinal or culinary plant until the modern era.  Now extensively cultivated, especially in tropical climates it tends to be used for distilling the essential oil which is used in commercial cleaning and perfume products.  It is, however, also an amazing culinary herb.

To Grow

A tropical perennial it is grown as an annual in most of the United States as it is hardy in only zones 9 & 10.  But even in Illinois it will grow 3 to 5 feet tall in a single season.  The plant grows in a clump with flat long grass-like leaves about ¼ inch wide.  The edges of the blades are finely serrated and must be handled carefully as they can cut the skin, especially later in the season when the blade becomes more rigid.  Unless in the tropics it generally does not flower.

It can be grown in pots or as a replaceable accent plant in the ground.  In either case it needs a fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of moisture.  It needs a minimum temperature of 45 to 50 degrees F, so do not plant it outside too soon and be ready to harvest it at the same time you would harvest end of season Basil. I tent to grow it in a raised bed, which gives me the ability to control the richness of the soil, but gives the roots more room to spread than a pot dies.  In fall I sometimes uproot a small plant to bring in for winter.  It needs a long hot summer and much moisture to grow large enough to use in Asian cooking. 

To Use

In Asia it is the thickened stems near the root, that resemble leek leaves, that are sliced and used in stir-fry in Thailand, Malaysia and southeast Asia. You can buy it fresh in some supermarkets, in Asian markets it is called “Sereh.”  The leaves, however, can be harvested and chopped anytime for tea and at the end of the season it can be unearthed and hung to dry for winter use.  These leaves can also be used to flavor stir fry and can be used in sauces and fish stock.  Fresh leaves are cut and applied on fish, prawns and other sea foods to improve the taste. When used long, they should be removed before serving, for, as like Bay leaves, they have sharp edges.  The leaves dried can also be used along with orange and lemon for a citrus potpourri.  The leaves should be dried in the dark to help preserve the color.

To extract the lemongrass essential oil, all you need to do is to subject the lemongrass leaves to steam distillation. The extract from lemon grass is pungent and tastes like ginger. The essential oil has antiseptic and antifungal properties and is used in creams and lotions for rheumatic aches and pains and athlete’s foot.  Tea is thought to help with indigestion and gastric upsets.  The essential oil is most popular in perfume, soap and cosmetics.  It is especially good for oily skin and in home fragrance preparations, like scented sachets and potpourri.  I love it in candles and bath salts.

In terms of medicinal value, Chinese herbalists are employing lemongrass oil to treat colds and pains such as fungal infections, stomach aches, digestion issues, spasms, muscle cramps, tooth aches and rheumatic pain. You can alos make a preparation out of lemongrass which is used in washing the hair. Because its sister plant is citronella, one can also use it as a pesticide and repellant to household rodents. This grass is rich in a substance called citral, the active ingredient in lemon peel. This substance is said to aid in digestion as well as relieve spasms, muscle cramps, rheumatism and headaches.

Lemon grass is also used commercially as the lemon scent in many products including soaps, perfumes and candles. A related plant, (Cymbopogon nardus) is the ingredient in citronella candles sold to ward off mosquitoes and other insects.


Lemon Grass Sprimp
1/2 pound medium shrimp - peeled and deveined
12 mushrooms, halved
1 (4.5 ounce) can mushrooms, drained
4 cups water
2 lemon grass
4 kaffir lime leaves
4 slices galangal
4 chile padi (bird's eye chiles)
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 limes, juiced
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon hot chile paste
1 tablespoon tom yum soup paste (optional)

  1. Trim lemongrass and cut into matchstick size pieces.
  2. To make stock: Add the shrimp heads and shells to water, then cook for 20 minutes. Turn the fire off. Soak the heads and shells for further 20 minutes before discarding.
  3. Add stock, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, chili padi, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili paste to a pot and bring to a boil.
  4. After boiling for 5 minutes, add shrimps and both mushrooms. Cook for another 10 minutes. Garnish with coriander leaves.
Lemon Grass Green Beans & Scallops
1 shallot, sliced crosswise
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup finely chopped pineapple
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon lemon grass, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt, to taste

1/2 pound French style green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons safflower oil
4 large sea scallops

  1. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. Stir in the shallot and 1 pinch of salt; cook and stir until the shallot has softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir shallot, pineapple, ginger, lemon grass, cilantro, honey, vinegar, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil, and salt to taste, together in a bowl. Set aside.
  4. Place a steamer insert into a saucepan, and fill with water to just below the bottom of the steamer. Cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  5. Add the green beans, recover, and steam until just tender, 2 to 6 minutes depending on thickness.
  6. Immediately immerse in ice water for several minutes until cold to stop the cooking process. Once the green beans are cold, drain well, and set aside.
  7. Heat the safflower oil in a large skillet over high heat. Thoroughly dry each scallop. Once light wisps of smoke are visible in the safflower oil, carefully place the scallops in the skillet.
  8. Sear the scallops until golden brown without moving them, about 1 minute. Flip the scallop and cook until desired doneness, about 90 seconds.
  9. Turn off the heat and remove scallops from the skillet. Toss green beans into the still-hot skillet for 1 minute. Serve scallops over green beans and top with pineapple salsa.

Lemon Grass Hair Rinse
This rinse is recommended as an alternative to washing the hair when you don't want it to frizz, but you do want it refreshed.   The chamomile will add shine to the hair, while the essential oils in the lemongrass will coat and protect the hair.

6 cups water
2 tablespoons loose chamomile
2 tablespoons loose lemongrass leaves, chopped
Optional:  Add 1-2 drops of essential oil to fragrance the hair

Bring the water to a boil in a medium sized pot, then turn the burner to the lowest setting. Add teas and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool, with cover on, to room temperature. Strain, reserving liquid and discarding tea.  If adding essential oils, do so now.  Pour into a spray bottle (use a funnel) and store in the fridge until use.

To Use
In the shower, after initial rinse and shampoo (optional), spray hair with the rinse mixture, and wring out hair (you may partially rinse with water, but do not completely rinse out).  Spray additional rinse mixture during drying and styling.

The Backyard Patch makes Lemon Grass scented bath salts and several teas which include lemongrass.  To see these and other products from the Backyard Patch, visit us at

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...